"They want to open people's eyes and hope people understand how important it is to say yes to organ donation," the girls' mother revealed.
Two little girls in West Jordan, Utah, have come up with a heartwarming way to honor their late sister on the occasion of her first death anniversary. Makenzie Madsen passed at age 14 last year after waiting more than 300 days in the hospital for a heart and kidney transplant that never came. Born with congenital heart disease, she had received a heart transplant at 17 months old, her mother, Monica Madsen, told Good Morning America. However, the heart grew weaker as she became older and when her organs began shutting down in 2019, she had to be taken off the waiting list for donations. On July 13, 2020, the night she came home from the hospital, Makenzie breathed her last.
Now, her younger sisters, Myleigh, 9, and Makayla, 7, are keeping her memory alive through a lemonade stand they set up to raise awareness for organ donation. "We just talked about what we could do because her anniversary is coming up," Madsen revealed, adding that the idea was inspired by Makenzie herself, who would often set up a table and chair outside of their home to sell her own creations including snow cones, cookies, and even a banana cream pie that the neighbors still rave about.
"She just loved to bake and cook," Madsen said. "She even made her own snow cone flavors out of Kool-Aid." Despite her love baking treats, Madsen revealed that her daughter didn't have a sweet tooth or like to eat them. "I think she just loved interacting with people and seeing people smile," she said. Once they decided to keep their sister's favorite sidewalk business running in her memory, Myleigh and Makayla spent their allowances and saved money from birthday cards to build the lemonade stand. The stand's design — painted teal and pink — is also an ode to Makenzie.
"I just really miss her," Makayla told The Salt Lake Tribune. "We used to make slime together. It was teal. That was her favorite color." The siblings plan to give the money raised through the lemonade stand to DonorConnect, a nonprofit that helps procure organs for transplant in Utah and the West. Currently, there are reportedly 10 kids waiting for a heart in the state. Dixie Madsen, the spokeswoman for DonorConnect, revealed that at least one person under the age of 17 here has been on the list for more than five years. "There's just not enough organs for everyone who needs one," she said, "and that's often especially the case for kids." Altogether, 829 people of all ages are waiting for an organ transplant in Utah.
So far, the Madsen siblings have raised approximately $6,000 for the cause. However, Myleigh insists that she and her sister want to "get even more money to help other kids." The girls' mother explained that "they want to open people's eyes and hope people understand how important it is to say yes to organ donation. They don't want other kids to feel this -- if their siblings have been waiting for a transplant and they didn't make it. That's what they talked to me about."
In addition to lemonade, Myleigh and Makayla are also making cake pops to sell. They also plan to try their hand at cotton candy. "We've just tried to keep her spirit alive," Madsen said. "She's up there cheering them on and helping them out and rallying people to go see the stand." Although the family will wrap up the lemonade stand for the summer soon, they plan to continue the tradition every year just like they said Makenzie would have.